Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 01 Feb 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s decision to reduce her Special Guardianship Allowance. This is because the Council has provided the remedy Mrs X was seeking and it is unlikely further investigation by the Ombudsman would achieve a different outcome.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains about the Council’s reduction in her Special Guardianship Allowance. She says this has caused her family significant financial hardship and affected the well-being of her grandchildren.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I discussed the complaint with Mrs X and considered the written information she provided. I discussed the matter with a senior Council officer. I took account of all the information before reaching a draft decision on the complaint. I have invited comments on it and none were received.
What I found
- Mrs X and her husband, Mr X, were made Special Guardians to their four grandchildren by an order of the Court in February 2016. The Council made a “Special Guardianship Allowance” to Mr and Mrs X. The purpose of this was to provide financial support to help them look after the children. This was a means tested allowance made in accordance with the Council policy at the time.
- In March 2017, the Council changed its policy and this allowance was reduced. Mrs X says this has caused her financial hardship. She also says the Council failed to honour an agreement to pay this allowance until the children were 18 as well as lump sum payments that she believed had been promised by the Council.
- She complained to the Council about this. The Council did not uphold her complaint. She complained to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman found the Council to be at fault because it failed to follow the statutory complaints procedure. To remedy this fault, the Council agreed to reconsider Mrs X’s complaint properly.
- A stage 3 hearing was held in August 2018. The Council did not uphold Mrs X’s complaint so she complained again to the Ombudsman about the reduction of the allowance. During the initial stages of my investigation, the Council has reviewed its position and has agreed to reinstate the previous level of payments and backdate these to when they were withdrawn.
- Mrs X has said she is satisfied with the Council’s proposal. Because of this it is unlikely the Ombudsman could add anything further. Consequently, there is no need for the Ombudsman to carry out any further investigation into the complaint.
- I have closed my investigation as the Council has provided the remedy Mrs X was seeking. It is unlikely any further investigation by the Ombudsman would achieve anything more.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman